Increasing congestion in Santiago de Chile

Chile is a blooming economy with constant growth since 1984. Only very few countries such as China and India can give Chile a fair competition in terms of economical growth. With increasing wealth, more travel follows. The cars in Chile are quite new and statistics shows a rapid increase in the numbers of cars.


Sunday afternoon traffic in Santiago, some of the articulated Volvo buses from 2005.

I arrived to Chile, together with my colleague Jörgen Sjöstedt, product manager for the Americas, on Sunday afternoon. The rain was pouring down; it was freezing cold and windy.

In 2005 an programme for organising public transports was realised and more than 1100 new Volvo buses were brought into service. An immediate effect was seen in the air quality and a decrease of city smog resulted.

However, increasing congestion problems mainly caused by increasing number of cars (this is my private analysis) indirectly affects all traffic that now have a very low average speed. It took us 1 hour to go by car from the city centre 4 km to the hotel! And, the smog has now started to increased again.

University students at PUC prefer taking the car, note the beautiful scenery and early morning raising smog in the background.

Unfortunately, the general mindset, learned from the people I came to speak with, is that you use the car if you can afford it. The coming generation of Santiago citizens are frequent car users. At the University in Santiago (PUC) there were more cars than I ever seen at a University before. In fact, a substantial part of the surface was covered by parking lots. 

In the city centre, several Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines are crossing. In the very middle of the centre the traffic flows relatively smooth. At the “Plaza de la Ciudadania” the characteristic huge flag (big as a tennis court, I was told) was making waves in the wind. The high capacity trunk lines pass and provided a steady flow of large numbers of people at the avenue Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins under the flag.

One of the buildings with new exciting architecture covered with real grass. I would not like to be the one using the lawn mover here!

The prospering spirit of the people in Santiago made the visit very pleasant. A new business district is growing some 4 km from the city centre. Recently a major earthquake shook the city but the building has started again and new exciting architecture literarily grow from the ground.

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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